Florida Film Festival returns for a 32nd year, bringing wild and wide-ranging cinema to Orlando

10 days of cinema from around the world

"Egghead & Twinkie" screens Sunday, April 16, and Thursday, April 20
"Egghead & Twinkie" screens Sunday, April 16, and Thursday, April 20 image courtesy of Florida Film Festival

For a 32nd year, the Florida Film Festival is bringing a slate of adventurous and eclectic cinema — an eye-popping 168 films, in point of fact — to Orlando starting this Friday.

The theme this year is "Only in Florida" — further emphasized by promotional imagery of a gent filming himself while strapped to a gator. Anything to get the perfect shot, are we right, fellow Floridians?

FFF kicks off with a local-friendly bang with an opening-night party on Friday, April 14, featuring a screening of You Were My First Boyfriend. The film, directed by Cecilia Aldarondo and Sarah Enid Hagey, was produced in Winter Park and takes a surrealistic and affecting look at teen angst and the lingering wounds of high school. Post-film, everyone decamps to the Tiedtke Amphitheater for a glitzy opening-night soiree.

And that's just the start of 10 days of cinema from around the world, on subjects ranging from Judy Blume to Pensacola music eccentrics, nudists in the Everglades to fighting Nazis in Finland, 1970s session musicians to dystopian AI, women's rights in El Salvador to a ghost that eats tears.

And don't forget the short-films programming blocks — Florida Film Festival is one of just a few Oscar-accredited festivals in the U.S. for animated short films, live-action short films and documentary shorts. This year's blocks include "Too Much Too Young," "Swamp and Sunshine" and the always-provocative Midnight Shorts event. This year's "party at ground zero" will not disappoint.

As per usual with FFF, there are some big-name guests venturing down to Central Florida to take part in Fest activities. Actor John Cusack is set to be a guest of honor on Friday, April 21, appearing in-person at a screening of one of his particularly iconic films. (Hint: Boombox.)

The "An Evening With John Cusack" spotlight event at the Enzian consists of a screening of the 1989 film Say Anything, along with a post-film Q+A with Cusack.

Iconic alternative-folk duo the Indigo Girls, in between tour stops (in particular a Plaza Live gig the same evening), will be landing at the Enzian on Sunday, April 16 for a daytime screening (and Florida premiere) of verite doc It's Only Life After All. The film retraces 40 years of essential music, performance and being out-and-proud lesbians in turbulent political times.

Ancillary programming this years includes a filmmaker forum, panels on representation and virtual film production, live music at the Eden Bar, foodie events, a free screening of Encino Man at Winter Park's Central Park and a post-festival awards celebration.

The Florida Film Festival runs from April 14-23 at the Enzian and nearby venues, including the Winter Park Village Regal Cinemas. Passes and individual tickets are on sale now. See you at the pictures.

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